National Geographic : 1977 Aug
Adenauer, first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, died at 91. On a summer day, when the sunlight streams into the house in the village of Rhondorf where he lived for years, it is difficult to find shadows of the evil he remembered. It is a pleasant but unpretentious house, with paint ings, records, and books.Thewindows books.Thewindos "He was thinking ve look out on the much evil could hai Rhine and beyond the National Social to the Eifel hills, have any meaning... Only a bronze be to make the Ge candlestick recalls from any sort of to that evil. Adenauer A RECOLLECTIO had taken it him- PERSONAL SECR self from the base ment of Gestapo headquarters in Cologne after the war. He kept it on his shaving stand, as a reminder, while he helped shape the future of West Germany. It remains a useful reminder, in light of what has happened to postwar Germany. Three decades after the end of the evil, an uneasy posture of penance has been altered, transformed now into something more com fortable and familiar to the German charac ter: pride. The pride is readily understandable. Only seven years after surrender, German factories rebuilt with U. S. Marshall Plan aid were churning out a trade surplus; by the end of the sixties the surplus had grown twenty fold. The now-famous Wirtschaftswunder the "economic miracle"-propelled the Fed eral Republic into the role of Western Europe's most powerful economic force. Even the recent global inflation and re cession, which checked West Germany's growth for a time and left it with a million unemployed, did not alter that dominant position. Europe had become, according to the respected British journal The Economist, a "two-tier community," with the Federal Republic "all alone on the top tier." How did the West Germans manage to ry ve ist, an rm ta N ETA avoid the plagues-spiraling inflation, labor strife, a weakening currency-that have afflicted other nations? And can Germany remain Western Europe's most substantial monetary and military bulwark? Complex questions, important questions. I have journeyed across the Federal Republic from Bonn to Berlin, from Munich to Ham burg, seeking the answers (map, page much about why so er , been possible under 155). In the process s. If such evil could I found many of the y good result, it would roots of the West an people immune German phenome litarianismagain." non, including a re )F KONRAD ADENAUER BY HIS markable political RY, DR. ANNELIESE POPPINGA stability; a coopera tive labor move ment; a social calm; the industrious German nature itself. But the story starts with money, and for an examination of money, you go to Frankfurt am Main. The shiny, soaring towers of Frankfurt house the giants of German finance, among them the Big Three commercial banks: Deutsche, Dresdner, Commerzbank. They bankroll much of German industry (even own shares of it) and most of export and im port business. Their directors sit on the boards of scores of companies and so help shape the Federal Republic's industrial course. One of those directors told me a little about his city, symbol of the new financial Reich. He gestured toward a window: "Look at it, a sort of Houston or Osaka. A new city. Re built after war's destruction. No center. Little sense of beauty. Just people trying to outper form each other. A cruel kind of competition. "Still, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Here you sense a vitality, an easiness to do things-because you do not have the bur den of your past. The old history has been abolished; tradition has been swept away." Many Frankfurters seek something of the old Germany in the nearby Taunus, walking the forested mountain trails on weekends. But a distinct, non-German flavor permeates Captains of the Big Three strongly influence the financial course of a nation that, almost alone in the industrialized world, has managed to minimize inflation and keep its currency strong. From left, Robert Dhom, Commerzbank; Jirgen Ponto, Dresdner Bank; Wilfried Guth and Wilhelm Christians, Deutsche Bank. German banks are expanding overseas for a bigger slice of the international money market.